IDF 2012 Shifts Focus to Cloud and Mobility

A wide range of processor types from datacenter to smartphones should enable the accelerated growth of software applications for Intel-based devices.

By John Blyler, Editorial Director

Figure: Haswell architectures beats Ivy-Bridge by about one-half in this graphic intensive demonstration

Once again, the opening keynote at the Intel Developer’s Forum was a visually dazzling event. But something was missing. To understand what, you need to compare this year’s event with the previous one.

Last year - at IDF2011 - Intel’s CEO Paul Ortellini talked about the ongoing transformations in transistor technology, focusing mainly on the growing consumer market for embedded products. All of these transformations have been based on the ever-increasing availability of transistors and device improvements, such as 3D structures and ever decreasing process geometries.

This year - at IDF 2012 - Intel’s Architecture Group VP and GM, David “Dadi” Perlmutter, explained how computing was shaping the future of datacenter cloud computing to device mobility. He showcased Intel’s ongoing efforts with developers to create applications from cloud to intelligent systems that would “touch everyone on Mother Earth.” Connecting global users in this way requires a wide spectrum of processor technology, from the mobile-based Medfield “Atom” (millions of transistors) to the server-grade Xeon (billions of transistors).

Today’, both of these devices are in production. Medfield-based smartphones are available in Asia and Europe. Xeon E5 servers are found in many of today’s datacenters. Interestingly, during the post-keynote “question and answer” session, Perlmutter emphasized that the Xeon E5 was not intended as a replacement to Intel’s high-performance computing (HPC) iTanium processor.

A common thread between IDF2011 and IDF 2012 is the Ultrabook, very thin and low-power laptops powered by Intel’s core processors like the Haswell. One of the more impressive demonstrations benchmarked the 3rd-generation Core processors (32nm), or Ivy Bridge, with the upcoming 4th generation Core processors (22nm), based on the Haswell microarchitecture (see Figure).

One device missing from this year’s event was the Claremont, an experimental prototype processor. This Near Threshold Voltage (NTV) processor, which uses a novel, ultra-low voltage circuit powered by a postage size solar cell, was demonstrated during the 2011 keynote. This class of processor operates close to the transistor’s turn-on or threshold voltage - hence the NTV name.

Several weeks ago, in mid-August 2012, Intel Labs presented an update of a Claremont-based processor prototype at the Hot Chips forum. The speaker talked about the energy benefits of Near Threshold Voltage (NTV) computing using Intel’s IA-32, 32nm CMOS processor technology.

An important goal for the Claremont prototype was to extend the processors dynamic performance - from NTV to higher, more common computing voltages (as in the smartphone-based Medfield) while maintaining energy efficiency.

This year’s keynote theme was about the wide range of products - from smartphones to data center servers - being connected by a spiral of software. Developers were encouraged to make a difference to the world by creating useful products based on this range of technology.



John Blyler is the editorial director of Extension Media, which publishes Chip Design and Embedded Intel® Solutions magazine, plus over 36 EECatalog Engineers’ Guides in vertical market areas.